It squeaks every time I walk over it. It’s never the same sound. The right amount of weight to the hardwood floor underfoot yields a squeak, that no matter how often it occurs always startles me. It’s located right at the foot of my bed, where I stand every day to make my bed, and every other day to sort laundry and put it away.
I’ve been thinking about this weak spot as I prepare for surgery tomorrow to repair a hernia in my abdomen. With the right amount of tension placed on the muscles underneath my right rib, a hernia peeks out. By no means is it cute, nor the noises produced by me from its pain pleasant. Like the bedroom floor, the hernia’s appearance always startles me. Unlike the bedroom floor, the hernia’s pain is so intense it brings me to tears.
My hernia is a post-op complication of my gallbladder surgery. A week after the surgery in 2013, I went back to University of Chicago and complained of pain near one of the incisions. Could it be a hernia? I asked, to which I was told, nope. Instead, I was instructed to take it easier than I was, and the doctor told me I needed a lighter weight laptop for work. I did get the new computer, and I did my best to ignore the pain.
Over the years, the pain appeared periodically, but last year when I started to regularly practice yoga the pain started to come back with greater intensity and frequency. There were certain poses that I practiced that triggered it, so I tried best to avoid. One night in January I attended a class led by a teacher, with whom I’d never practiced before, and as we settled into Mālāsana, she guided us through some stretches. As I attempted the stretch, a fire erupted in my abdomen, it paralyzed me with its acute pain. I attempted to catch my breath and roll over, eventually making it into child’s pose where I relaxed the muscles in my abdomen and cried, for what seemed like a very long time.
At that time, I felt the pain was more than physical. It happened one week before my divorce was final. It’s appearance and timing symbolized to me the existence of so much pain that needed to be released before that weak spot could heal. Sticking with the physical existence, I visited my primary care physician who found a hernia and immediately referred me to a surgeon. While the surgeon said my symptoms were classic for an incisional hernia, his examination and a CT Scan did not prove it existed.
Since February, I’ve literally sucked up the physical pain. When I knew I was near to triggering the hernia, I pulled back, and if I did trigger it, I hit the mat and let my body release. But last Tuesday, nothing worked. In rabbit pose, it felt like someone placed my abdomen in a vice. And later in shoulder stand, the vice was turned so tight that I thought my insides would be crushed. I laid flat on my mat, with stomach face down, as tears rolled down my face. My gut wrenched and my heart heaved. I’d been to an Al-Anon meeting that day that left me profoundly sad. I felt like the hernia purposely made its appearance when I felt physically weak and emotionally vulnerable.
I visited my surgeon’s office the next day, where I gladly assumed rabbit pose to make the hernia appear. My surgeon felt it. We scheduled surgery. I’m hopeful that tomorrow’s surgery will prevent last Tuesday’s pain from happening ever again.
This hernia is roughly 4.75 years old. It’s been around for the most challenging part of my life. I feel like this surgery is the physical end of that chapter and that it is happening at the end of 2017 is even more symbolic. The surgeon expects to make a one-inch incision near the gallbladder incision, where once inside he’ll stitch up the weak spot and with some rest, I should be all better.
I’m nervous, of course. But I’m also grateful that time really does heal all wounds, even when we need an extra stitch or two.